Chinese Dragons and Cultural Intelligence
Jan 25, 2022
Children’s Yoga classes are a great place to foster emotional intelligence as well as cultural intelligence. Far more than fitness and fun, the lesson plans we create help cultivate the whole child – mind, body and spirit. As children move their bodies, they are engaged with a theme that promotes deeper self-understanding. Then, the kids relax and meditate which naturally integrates their experience. There’s a limitless number of topics/themes to explore in Yoga class. I like themes that cultivate life skills including emotional intelligence, self-understanding, compassion and courage.
Cultural intelligence is part of emotional intelligence. One reason for the divisiveness around us today is that there’s a lot of stress and uncertainty. This triggers the alarm in the brain to drop into fight or flight.
Humans, for all time, have operated on self-preservation. There is a primitive response to fear the “other.” For hundreds of thousands of years another tribe could conquer yours. This is hardwired. Now, as we become a more global and interconnected species, it’s time to rise above this primitive imprinting and use emotional intelligence, along with the “modern” pre-frontal cortex to get to know the “other.”
See another as yourself, as a member of your own community. Everyone wants the same things, to be happy and loved and safe. The founder of my Yoga teacher training school, Swami Vishnu-Devananda, had a pithy slogan, “Unity in diversity.” Through understanding and honoring differences we become one. This is both Yoga as well as cultural intelligence. Make the unfamiliar familiar. When this happens the primitive brain relaxes its guard and we build bridges instead of walls. Abraham Lincoln spoke to this with his quote, “I don’t like that man! I must get to know him better.”
When I was in high school, I spent time in detention. Um, kind of a lot of time. After many hours sitting in a desk in an otherwise empty room with a broken clock (can’t make this stuff up), someone somewhere in the school decided to put this time to better use. I got the chance to help some of the Laotian students in our school learn English. Turns out I love to teach as well as the subject of English so this was a good fit, whether the school officials knew this or not. It was awkward for all parties involved, but I was happy to help…and get out of that empty room.
Then, when I became an adult, I was able to spend several years traveling extensively in Southeast Asia. I came to love the people and the culture. Looking back on my high school experience, I couldn’t believe that no one did anything to help kids get to know each other. The kids from Laos stayed isolated and the kids from my home town of Richfield stayed ignorant. Missed opportunity – big time. Why didn’t the teachers and administrators tell me who these kids were, where they came from, why they were here, what they liked? I regretted not knowing and not being a part of these students feeling more welcome and included.
This experience inspired me to help children better understand their own culture as well as others. Dragons are as good a subject as any! We have recently published a lesson plan called Chinese Dragons. Do you have Chinese heritage? Or do you know someone who does? Strike up a conversation about dragons!
Dragons are a huge part of Chinese culture. Emperors, and the Chinese population in general, refer to themselves as descendants of the dragon. They represent so many things including: abundance, prosperity, good fortune, power, excellence and nobility.
Chinese dragons can be wise and caring as well as arrogant and mischievous. They are known to overcome obstacles until success is attained. They are guardians and heroes.
In other words, we can learn a lot from Chinese dragons! While Western dragons are fierce – famous for burning down castles – Eastern dragons are friendly, benevolent and wise. Rather than breathing fire, they breathe clouds!
This lesson plan explores aspects of Chinese culture as well as positive qualities to develop. It’s intended for ages 4 through teens, with special modifications for kids under age 7.
Does this spark an idea for a theme for you? I hope so! You can get our robust Chinese Dragons Lesson Plan here.
With a lesson plan like this, you can help children consider these qualities and better understand a culture, all while moving their bodies and having fun. They also are able to relax, which takes them out of alarm mode and into a natural state of collaboration and connection.
Ohana Members pay less than 50%! Start your 15-day free trial today.